The unrelated incidents begin to pile up and a pattern emerges. And I start to see. “Ohhhhhh. This.”
- I deal with a biting incident at our new church (my son, not me) like a mature, well-adjusted adult – bursting into tears, sobbing “I’m sorry we’re so much work…” The ladies in the nursery both comfort me and call me on it. Why it is so hard for me to receive the same kind of help I’d happily give others?
- I’ve got a sore throat and a head ache. I need help with the kids. I apologize all day long, until my husband totally loses his cool. “I’ve never met anyone who apologizes so much for their own existence! You are not the only one in the mix.” This is a recurring problem.
- I read My Sister’s Addiction about the compulsive need to be needed. She quotes Mark Nepo
“I have been learning that the life of a caretaker is as addictive as the life of an alcoholic… we briefly numb a worthlessness that won’t go away unless constantly doused by another shot of self-sacrifice…”
This is me. So me. Ouch.
- I have trouble leaving my son at preschool. Even though he’s totally happy and well cared for and I have class and I really need the break. I walk down the stairs slowly, so slowly, pushing down a ridiculous upswell of guilt.
- I make a new friend who is passionate about teaching children to be advocates for each other, especially those with special needs. My kind of people. She tells a story about her daughter learning to advocate for herself, an important first step in becoming an advocate – Short Hair Don’t Care. And I find myself in tears. Again.
- A blog post appears in my inbox, I mean to delete it (no time to read), but click on the link by accident. Iced Tea, Decaf and the World Changing on its Axis is about a woman going to school while her husband helps cover for her (sounds familiar). She talks about the lessons of her mother’s generation:
“Women are the ones who sacrifice for their families. Not men. Not children. Women. In her world, God could not be calling any woman to do something that would cost her family anything. Not.Possible.”
And I start crying (of course), because deep down, I must believe this. Even though I know it’s crap. And I don’t want to. And it’s not what my parents taught me.
Clearly, I have a problem. I’m pretty good at giving. I won’t back down from a spirited debate. I’m a strong personality in many other ways. But some strange mixture of pride and insecurity makes it hard for me to ask for help. To accept the help I need. To accept that I need help at all. This is more than just a life skills deficit, it’s a spiritual problem.
I go to extraordinary lengths not to put people out, not to be a bother. If they bring me the wrong thing at the restaurant, I’ll usually just eat it. If someone does me wrong, I usually just eat that too. I make myself small.
Also, I’m really weepy these days.
This morning I had a chance to put some weight behind my resolution to speak up, to stop apologizing for what I need.
The good news, the absolutely thrilling and exciting news, is that a short story I wrote has been published in the university literary magazine. The editorial staff put a ton of work and effort into the annual publication. They did a great job!
As someone who’s done a lot of copy editing I know how easy it is, almost inevitable, to miss something. And they did. Unfortunately, the word missing is crucial. A climactic statement at the very end of my story rendered nonsensical.
It still works. I’m still 99% tickled to see my name in print. I know it’s too late to do anything about the print copies. I tell myself it’s not a big deal, stop obsessing. But I need them to fix it before they post the PDF version online.
That was a hard email for me to write.
So here’s me, taking up space in the world. And that might put people out, or rock the boat, or make a mess. And I’m learning to be okay with that.